Film Review: ‘Cupcakes’

Israeli helmer Eytan Fox's candy-colored musical is an endearingly goofy celebration of the right to be yourself.


Efrat Dor, Anat Waxman, Dana Ivgy, Keren Berger, Yael Bar-Zohar, Ofer Schecter, Avon Levi, Ruth Arseni.

To call Israeli helmer Eytan Fox’s candy-colored, buoyantly upbeat musical a change of pace would be an understatement. Still, Fox’s 2011 drama “Yossi” already ranked as a celebration, albeit in minor key, as its sad-sack hero finally broke free from mournful isolation. Now, in “Cupcakes,” not one man but five women, led by a joyously uninhibited gay guy, jettison their paralyzing fears and, in the grand old MGM tradition, put on a show! (Or rather, sing songs on a global telecast.) Endearingly goofy with its “dare to be yourself” moral and ’70s-tinged aesthetic, this sweet confection could tempt gay and straight audiences alike.  

In a nostalgic throwback to the bygone days of neighborliness and kitsch TV, six fellow tenants gather together to watch “Unisong,” a “Eurovision”-type international singing contest. Unimpressed by the generic Israeli entry but still in musical mode, they join in an impromptu number to cheer up their hostess, whose husband has just left her. A cell phone-shot video of their ditty is submitted on a lark and soon goes viral, and the six soon find themselves elected as the official Israeli representatives at the next “Unisong” contest, to the great consternation of almost everyone involved.

Played by well-known actors from diverse disciplines, this gaggle of neighbors are a motley bunch indeed, each with his or her own reason for not going public. Efrat (Efrat Dor), a lesbian alternative singer-guitarist whose artistic intransigence has kept her on the margins of the business, wants no part of this cornball venue. Middle-aged baker Anat (Anat Waxman), the abandoned wife, dreads looking ridiculous and “age-inappropriate.” Dana (Dana Ivgy), who works as assistant to a conservative female politico just to please her Orthodox dad, shudders at the notion of so frivolously exposing herself.

Popular on Variety

Yael (Yael Bar-Zohar), an ex-beauty queen turned lawyer, fears losing respect as a professional woman. Pathologically shy blogger Keren (Keren Berger) hesitates to venture outside cyberspace. Only Ofer (Ofer Schecter), a teacher who delightedly performs for his kindergarteners in sequined drag, never hesitates, brushing off the paranoid imaginings of his tightly closeted lover (Alon Levi).

Finally, persuaded by friends, significant others, potential heartthrobs or inner revelations, each of the timid holdouts surrenders, as “Cupcakes” celebrates the heady liberation of coming out of societal closets with song, decor and romantic resolutions. Instead of subverting traditional movie-musical cliches, Fox and co-writer Eli Bijaoui gleefully revel in them: The scene in which showbiz professionals seek to polish a performer beyond recognition (Esther Blodgett, anyone?) gets a hilarious workout in an awful, overproduced song-and-dance number that destroys everything that made the neighbors’ song so charming. Eventually, of course, they remain true to their amiably kooky vision, Ofer looking particularly fetching in tuxedo top and tutu bottom. Fox lets the other “Unisong” acts proceed in more conventional, contemporary mode, though he films them with equal gusto.

With its bright pastels and chirpy campiness, “Cupcakes” seems closer to Pedro Almodovar’s kinky comedies than to Fox’s somber, war-torn “Yossi & Jagger” or the Israeli-Palestinian tensions that threatened to burst “The Bubble.”  Momentarily abandoning the strain of imagining liberation within a realistically perceived Israel, Fox here settles for the ephemeral glow of an exuberant block party.

Film Review: 'Cupcakes'

Reviewed on DVD, New York, Jan. 18, 2012. (In New York Jewish Film Festival.) Running time: 89 MIN.  Original title: "Bananot"


(Israel-France) An Abot Hameiri, United King Films, Chic Films, Lorette Prods., Rabinovich Foundation, Keshet, Canal Plus, Cine Plus production. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Lauranne Bourrachot, Marco Cherqui.


Directed by Eytan Fox. Screenplay, Eli Bijaoui, Fox. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Daniel Schneor; editor, Ron Omer; music, Haim Frank Ilfman; production designer, Arad Swat; sound designer, Gil Toren; re-recording mixer, Jean-Christophe Jule; casting, Yael Aviv.


Efrat Dor, Anat Waxman, Dana Ivgy, Keren Berger, Yael Bar-Zohar, Ofer Schecter, Avon Levi, Ruth Arseni.

More Film

  • Ennio The Maestro

    Wong Kar-wai’s Block 2 to Sell Giuseppe Tornatore’s ‘Ennio: The Maestro’

    Block 2 Distribution, the sales arm of Wong Kar-wai’s Jet Tone Films will handle international rights to “Ennio: The Maestro.” The film is an upcoming documentary about legendary film musician Ennio Morricone, written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. Morricone, who is 91, has more than 500 movie credits to this name including scores for Sergio [...]

  • José

    'José': Film Review

    It has been a year and a half since director Li Cheng’s “José” won the Venice Film Festival’s Queer Lion. It would be a shame to let the lag time diminish expectations. After a LGBTQ fest run, the Spanish-language drama — about a young gay man in Guatemala — has opened theatrically and continues to [...]

  • The Cost of Silence

    'The Cost of Silence': Film Review

    A decade has passed since 2010’s Deepwater Horizon tragedy, history’s most catastrophic oil drilling accident that occurred when a BP-operated pipe exploded, leaking millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. There was no successful intervention for months, and time hasn’t healed all wounds. On the contrary, it opened new, irreversible ones as [...]

  • Nardjes A.

    ‘Invisible Life’s’ Karim Ainouz Drops Trailer for 'Nardjes A.’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    On Feb. 14 last year, Karim Aïnouz arrived in Algeria to trace via the story of his parents the Algerian Revolution which happened 60 years ago – its 1954-62 War of Independence from France. The uprising he very quickly started to shoot, however, was one happening right then, the Revolution of Smiles, whose first street [...]

  • Call of the Wild

    Harrison Ford in 'The Call of the Wild': Film Review

    Dogs, in their rambunctious domesticated way, can lead us overly civilized humans a step or two closer to the natural world. So it’s only fitting that the best dog movies have saluted that unruly canine spirit without a lot of artificial flavoring. Hollywood’s classic dog tales, like “Old Yeller” (1957) or “Lassie Come Home” (1943), [...]

  • Adventures of a Mathematician

    Indie Sales Unveils Trailer For 'Adventures of a Mathematician' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run up to Berlin’s European Film Market, Indie Sales has unveiled the trailer for Thor Klein’s “Adventures of a Mathematician” which had its world premiere in Palm Springs. The film tells the inspiring true story of a Polish-Jewish mathematician who got a fellowship at Harvard and went on to join the prestigious Manhattan [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content